Damnit

By | May 12, 2008

They announced the Lisbon Treaty voting day for June 12th. I won’t be here to VOTE YES and counteract the No votes of the wilfully contrarian.

Can someone who was going to Vote No abstain please?

91 thoughts on “Damnit

  1. Andrew Lawlor

    Firstly, Enf, today being May 14th and the referendum being held on June 12th, you do have just about a month to study the Lisbon treaty. I would make again my point that to vote yes or no one does not necessarily need to read the treaty from cover to cover, just as voters in 1972 did not need to read the Treaty of Rome in its enirety to make an informed decision on joining the then EEC. There is, as I have said, an overload of information available to you now as you sit at your computer reading this comment. Just open a new web tab and google ‘lisbon treaty’ and you will get 381,000 responses. The Irish Times is running a useful series every day this week on the treaty. The treaty is discussed almost daily on Morning Ireland, Drivetime, and many other programs on radio. Also, unlike the voters of 1972, we have thirty five years of European experience to assist us in our decision. My advice to you, Enf, if I may, would be to inform yourself and then make an informed decision.

    One thing that I noticed today, as I drove around Dublin, Meath, Louth and Westmeath, was that I did not see one poster advocating a yes vote which did not include the name of the group or individual calling for that vote. However, in contrast, all of the posters calling for a no vote were anonymous.

    Is there not some kind of legislation which dictates that those running campaigns in elections and referendums must be cleary identified? Is there a spending limit imposed for referenda as there is for general elections? Answers on a poster please to…

  2. Liam

    I noticed that too, Andrew, on the posters all around Dublin – I think it is written but in the tiniest writing that is impossible to read from the ground looking up at the lamp post. I tried it today but couldn’t make out what was written.

    A lot of the NO posters look like Labour posters also.

  3. enf

    I am not saying it specifically for myself. I already know how I want to vote. My point is that Mr and Mrs Joe Soap are not going to bother their arses working out which way to vote.

    This apathy will swing the vote towards yes.

    Yes to what I don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows for sure.

    One thing I do know is that if we get it “wrong” it will be sent back so we get it “right”.

  4. Andrew Lawlor

    We will always have the odinary Joes and Josephines who take no interest in who runs their lives or how they do it. There are people who will never engage with the process and no amount of information will help them.

    Absolutely agree that, a la Nice, we will be asked to keep voting until we get it right. In the first Nice vote I voted yes but I accepted the democratic result and so consequently voted no when theissue was, wrongly, put to a re-vote.

  5. enf

    well if we leave Joe and Josephine and future generations in ignorance we will just have an idiocracy.

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  7. Darren

    Well, I’m an average Joe and I was really struggling to get to grips with the whole thing. I’ve spent the whole morning (and some of yesterday evening) trying to get to grips with Lisbon and, while I understand what’s involved in it now, I’m still not sure if I’m a YES or a NO. Here’s my post on it.

  8. John

    I wonder do some people think that FG and Labour are too nice.Why are Enda Kenny and Ruari Quinn are spending hours at the Forum for Europe leading the charge of the Yes side? FF must be having a laugh. When did FF give a helping hand to FG over a Referendum?

  9. Electron

    Tomaltach, the taxation issue is of major concern – the French and Germans are very unhappy with the present arrangement and harmonization will always be on their agenda. I make my living from Europe, so I’m not anti, but I do know the feelings on the ground and they aren’t to be ignored. The fact that Europe is to become a legal entity, is the first step towards harmonization in all critical areas and that’s not in our interest.

  10. Tomaltach

    Electron,
    The European commission makes no secret of the fact that it views a Consolidated Corporate Tax Base (or CCTB, which is not quite the same as tax harmonisation but would likely have a huge effect on Ireland nonetheless) as a major step forward in completing the ideal of a common, undistorted market. The Germans and French too are in favour of this kind of development. But the fact remains that Lisbon does not open up this possibility any more than it remains under the current arragements. Therefore, No camp arguments that somehow Lisbon paves the way for tax harmonisation are wrong. The issue of CCTB is not going to go away, but will have to be resisted in Ireland’s case by employing the safeguards that are already there and more important, by building an alliance against it (which likely will include the UK, Ireland, and a number of Eastern European countries, plus perhaps, Sweden for different reasons.)

  11. Crocodile

    Tomaltach’s analysis is very helpful. I’m particularly interested in his contention that Europe has been good for workers’ rights and that labour has benefited from protective legislation rather than suffered through the EU’s promotion of ‘competition’. I suppose Joe Higgins sees the direction things seem to have been going in the last few years and makes the connection with EU competition policy, like farmers look at the trade talks and see a threat. I wonder if, in both cases, the fears are based more on the known personal preferences and political form of the respective commissioners – Mandelson and McCreevy – than on actual EU policy.

  12. Tom N

    Excellent summary – where was it when I was doing my EU law exam?
    No voters are contrarians as you rightly point out. Even if one said he/she would abstain, I wouldn’t trust them. Work on the laws of probability that a good percentage of no voters will be out of the country too.

  13. Electron

    Tomaltach, you admit that the corporation tax issue is alive and would be disastrous for Ireland. I believe that Lisbon doesn’t deal with this particular area, but it is an attempt towards further integration and that, in turn, strengthens the position of the policy makers who will push for further integration and so on. By voting no, we have a chance to slow down the inevitable in order to get our own act together. As it stands, we are a type of bridge between the US and the EU and this have been very good for us, but all this will change as we will be forced to abandon our present economic and other connections to the US. So, voting no will slow down the integration process and give us some time to work out how we intend to survive without the US – maybe we’ll survive on handouts – there isn’t much dignity in that. Tread carefully, we are only a cash wealthy country and we need some serious thinking about our future direction. Our current politicians, let us down badly with their handling of the housing market within the EMU framework – not a clue how to manage it – can we trust them with our future?

  14. Tomaltach

    Electron,
    Your point about integration is well taken. There is no question but Lisbon is a further step in terms of integration. But, I would argue, a baby step not a giant step when compared with the distance already travelled by Europe in terms of political, economic, and legal integration. The EU has undertaken an extraordinary journey, from the Treaty of Rome and a largely economic agenda, up to Nice at which point some social and military matters were on the agenda. Along the way there is deep economic integration in the customs union, the single market, and for the majority, monetary integration.

    Taken in this context, if we mean integration to mean more power and competence going to Union level, Lisbon is certainly not a large step. The No camp talk of 60 areas under QMV. In fact, about half of these are already there. Furthermore, a closer look at the ‘new’ list of QMV areas reveals not a long list of 30 fields where competence is ceded from current unanimity to QMV. Instead, there are several new items which are not competence areas but procedural arising from the other changes in Lisbon such as electing the President of the Council and the High Representative of Foreign Affairs. Moreover, in a number of other areas now appearing as QMV, Ireland has opted out – such as immigration, justice and policing, border checks and a couple more which I cannot now recall now. Having said that, yes, there are new areas of competence moving to QMV such as tourism, humanitarian aid – not critical strategic areas. And it should be remember that in these latter areas the EU does not have sole competence but rather shared competence with the member states. Looked at in this was, the longer list of areas where we will not have a veto is not nearly as frightening as some would have us believe.

    True, the appointment of President and Foreign Affairs Representative – which they in reality will not be powerful positions, has a certain symbolic significance about how far integration has gone. But really and truly there are only reflective of what has already happened.

    The Reduced size of the commission doesn’t represent further integration, and the powers of the Union parliament and of the member parliaments are enhanced.

    When all is said and done, I don’t believe that the steps being taken will alter the outcome or timeline, both of which remain unknown, regarding CCTB. I would argue, however, that given the widespread resistance to CCTB among certain states, there is some way to go and any moves in that direction will be phased very very slowly indeed.

    But none of this removes the challenge facing Ireland in finding an alternative economic strategy, or a backup strategy. Even if CCTB never arrives formally, the fact that other Eastern European countries have now mimicked our approach may reduce its effectiveness here over time. That is a huge debate in itself, but one which is not really affected by Lisbon.

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  17. Longman Oz

    Why do I get the feeling that Enf may well be a wolf in sheep’s clothing? He starts out with the innocent “if its too hard to understand, better to play it safe” argument that might appeal to confused elderly voters and then, bit by bit, there seems a lot more propaganda in his back pocket for voting “no” than the ordinary casually-informed not-certain voter!

    In general, I have been very interested in the campaign run by the “no” campaign. Very media savvy and certainly well versed in the emotional appeal. My big beef with them is their shadowy approach. No one seems to know who they really are (what is a “businessman” after all, other than some vaguely reassuring word?), who is financing them and coaching them, and I fail to see how many of them are publicly accountable for the opinions that they are given so much media time to express.

    My own declaration of interest is that I am not a member of any political organisation. I vote when I am in the country, but have never voted for the same political party twice in a row. I am pro-Europe in principle, but remain undecided on this issue. In short, a floating, confused voter! :-)

  18. enf

    Not a wolf. Just a voter that is concerned that we are giving up our democracy without a fight.

    I vote a la carte. I am affiliated with no political party but would be firmly left leaning. I still don’t understand the treaty. I am not trying to appeal to anyone. I Do Not Understand It. I understand the broad strokes but I don’t understand the detail. The devil (if he exists) is in the detail. This is just a mass of gobblydegook that we are being scared into voting for.

    We are not voting to stay in Europe or giving a verdict on how the EU project is. Nor are we voting on staying in the EU. What we are voting for is the removal of democracy and representation from the EU. The clocks won’t stop and we won’t be booted out. My brother the civil servant mightn’t get fresh waffles in Brussels when he goes on a jolly to the HQ but that will be the extent of the backlash.

    As far as I can see the treaty is a crock and we are being sold a pup. I was wavering but now I will be voting no.

    And if its put back to us like the Nice treaty was so democratically re-run I will vote no again. It is my democratic right. If the EU is unhappy with me voting then I think we need to leave.

  19. Tony Allwright

    Your analysis, Sarah, amounts to vote YES to Lisbon for just five : mostly very thin : reasons.
    1. Enlargement means new rules are needed because the EU is becoming unwieldy : though all the evidence is that EU legislation-making has become MORE slick not less since enlargement, so no new rules are in fact needed. See for example this Charlemagne article in the Economist, http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject/displaystory.cfm?subjectid=3833071&story_id=8998372
    2. It reduces our commissioner-count but we’ll be no worse than anyone else. Why is it nevertheless good to reduce our commissioner-count?
    3. No need to worry about harmonisation of direct taxes, defence, abortion, neutrality or agriculture. It’s great that retention of two vetoes defends those tax and defence worries. But if retaining two vetoes is so valuable, why is it also supposed to be great to surrender no fewer than 32 other vetoes?
    4. A prosecutor will chase up fraud issues : and this from an outfit whose multi-billion €uro accounts have not been audited for fourteen years because the EU is rife with institutionalised crookery. I wouldn’t expect much from the fraud-chasers.
    5. New laws and institutions will prosecute cross-border trafficking in drugs and humans : very laudable but we don’t need a Lisbon treaty for that.

    The (insuperable) task the YES advocates face is that the onus is on THEM to make the case for change, and they simply cannot do it, as you yourself demonstrate in your five-item shopping list. Moreover, the deliberately obscure language is designed to prevent the case being made because it is obviously so dodgy.

    It is not up to the Naysayers to disprove Lisbon : they are innocent until proven guilty.

    If the YESsirs can’t make a convincing case, any mature person will vote NO. NO to Lisbon, but this is at the same time a big YES to the EU as currently constituted.

  20. Tomaltach

    I would like to respond to a couple of points in Tony Allright’s comment.

    First, the logic of reducing the commissioner count is that there are too many. Take a look at the commissioner website and see the overlaps that already exist. People say, well look, there are 100 members in the US Senate. But the senate passes legislation – which the Commission does not do. The commission proposes legislation which it believes forwards the aims and objectives of the union. More important it is then responsible for seeing that any legislation which does pass (Parliament and Council) is implemented. The Commissioner therefore is essentially the executive, the Cabinet if you like. Compare with the US cabinet which currently consists of 15 senior heads of departments.

    The thinking since before Nice was that in the event of enlargement (which hadn’t then taken place) there had to be caps on the size of both parliament and the executive, otherwise the thing just keeps growing without limit.

    The second thing I’d mention is the “surrender of 32 vetoes”. Take a closer look. In fact, many of these area are new and were never present before Lisbon, so there was no case of having a veto. Many of them are procedural (electing President of Council or High Representative, Changes to the composition of the committee of the Regions, Judicial Appointments Panel, Appointment of senior members of ECB) Many others seem to me not to be the most strategically critical in terms of protecting our interests – urgent aid to third countries, humanitarian operations. All told the new areas which operate under QMV look a lot less striking when examined a little closer.

    Final point I’d address in Tony Allright’s comment. It is very laudable to enact new laws and create new institutions, he wrote, to tackle cross border traffic in drugs and humans, but we don’t need Lisbon for that. What do we need? The heads of state and governments negotiated this guts of this deal over a five or 6 year period. They with their advisers agreed that Lisbon should be the vehicle for this. But now Mr Allright has another idea. He wouldn’t do it that way, though he doesn’t say how?

    The other point worth mentioning here is that on the vast bulk of substantial measures on Freedom, Security, and Justice, for better or for worse, Ireland and the Uk have opted out, with the possibility of engaging in these areas little by little down the line.

  21. enf

    The bottom line is that democracy is inconvenient. So lets get rid of it. If you vote yes you are on the “right side” and if you vote no you are a “spoilsport, ruining it for everyone else”.

    Maybe Gene Kerrigan is no longer on fire because he has criticised this treaty and the way it has been presented?

  22. Electron

    According to yesterday’s Sunday Times – this will be the last referendum that we will ever get on Europe’s future. Turkeys and Christmas comes to mind!

  23. Tony Allwright

    In responding to me, Tomaltach made a good case for reducing thecommissioner-count from the current 27. But the point I raised is what’s in it for Ireland to reduce our(ie Ireland’s) commissioner-count? The YESsirs have not made such a case.

    Maybe the 32 vetoes aren’t as important as tax and defence, but why is it good for Ireland to surrender them? Not for efficiency, because the EU is working fine right now despite all those vetoes. Againk, the YESsirs have not made the case.

    Finally, how would I “enact new laws and create new institutions to tackle cross border traffic in drugs and humans“? By using the existing law-making institution-creating EU machinery. They do this stuff all the time; it doesn’t require a new treaty/constitution.

  24. Tomaltach

    Electron,
    In short, article 48 of Lisbon provides that if changes are to be made they need to be ratified by all member states or for smaller measures, agreed under power of veto.

    The decision whether a measure for ratification (or for that matter some brand new treaty) is put to the people is entirely up to the government.

    It is a common misconception that as things stand currently, all EU agreements need to be put to the people. For a start, in our original constitution of 1937, sovereignty in International Affairs lay with our Government and the Dáil. There was no automatic requirement to consult the people. The Crotty judgement of 1987, as I understand it, found that treaties containing certain provisions such as common foreign policy need to be approved by the people. Not every Eu provision therefore would require a referendum. But it has been the practice of governments since to put all major Eu treaties to the people just in case. In fact, constitutionally this is a grey area and it would seem that no government would want to run the risk of ratifying a Treaty to then have that ratification constitutionally challenged.

    In short, we never have had an absolute right to a referendum on all international treaties. Lisbon doesn’t change that and explicitly requires that no further competence can be transferred to the Union without “being ratified by all the Member States in accordance with their respective constitutional requirements”. For areas where no new competence is transferred but where, say a further area is to be transferred from unanimity to QMV, each nation retains a veto.

  25. Tomaltach

    In reply to Tony Allright. First, I think the use of the derogatory label YESsirs for those who are arguing in favour of reforming the EU says a good deal about Mr Allright’s attitude. Clearly, instead of marshalling evidence, he finds it more convenient to employ the more debased tactic of name calling.

    That acknowledge, I’d like to return to the debate itself. As I said many of the new EU QMV measures are procedural. While the EU seems to be working better with 27 members than expected, it is clearly expedient to free issues such as the election of the Council President from future squabbles that unanimity would inevitibly bring. The elected representatives of 27 nations agreed that this was a compromise they were willing to make so that the Union wouldn’t fall into deadlocks in the future – a situation to be avoided because it weakens it. Furthermore, while the addition of 12 new states hasn’t blocked the council so far, it is reasonable to assume that as the new members grow into their new dispensation they will be more willing and able, as they should be and as the Western nations are, to assert their membership in a more forceful manner. In such a situation, it seems sensible to change non critical or procedural areas to QMV.

    On the issue of cross border traffic. Mr Allright, half serious, half mocking suggests using the existing EU machinery. (Half mocking because he says institution making machinery). Well yes, and no. Yes, there could be (and is) a degree of co-operation on cross border policiing as is. But Lisbon does three things:
    1. It adds clarity in this area by spelling out those areas that the Union is interested in reaching co-operation on. It delimits for example those areas which are a reality in cross border organised crime today and in which it would like to further co-operation:terrorism, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children, illicit drug trafficking, illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, corruption, organised crime.
    2. It sets out minimum standards or broad principles that should be adhered to by procedures in any state which would be followed before any co-operation is implemented.
    3. It sets out a kind of framework that needs to be somehow mutually recognisable across states in terms of evidence, arrest warrant, rights of victims, and other aspects of criminal procedure.

    Basically it gives far more clarify and indeed far more than the limited scope that was there already to achieve the objective of tackling serious cross border crime.

  26. Tomaltach

    And I wanted to add regarding the commission. Mr Allright acknowlegdes the validity of the argument that overall the commission should be reduced. But he argues that this doesn’t mean our commmissioner should be rotated. This is where armchair idealsim clashes with the mill of political reality. “Alright” Ireland’s Taoiseach cries “you crowd can rotate your commissioners equally, but we’re keeping ours”. He might as well add “oh, and we’re keeping our veto on those new areas, but you can do all the voting you want”. Among 27 members, I think we all know where that kind of approach to negotiation would lead – nowhere.

  27. Tony Allwright

    First “YESsirs” (originally YESers) is meant to be amusing not derogatory. But since I couldn’t think of something childish for the NOers, I called them Naysayers, arguably also derogatory.

    Also, as a Naysayer I don’t have to “marshall evidence“; I am quite happy with the EU as it is, in fact I am wildly enthusiastic about it and the €uro.

    I am waiting to be convinced of the case for change. And by the way, I have to admit that Tomaltach’s arguments favouring QMV (and thus surrendering multiple vetoes) are rather well put. Pity they’re not so obvious from the treaty text itself.

    I can see why leaders of countries en-masse might want to make particular changes such as reducing the number of commissioners, but if the Irish are to vote on this they need to be convinced it is good for Ireland. Let the others make their own decisions in their own best interests; that’s not Ireland’s job.

    I repeat that the current EU is not merely “working better than expected” compared with pre-enlargement. It is in fact working 25% better in absolute terms, in getting legislation and so forth agreed. Maybe the embarrassment of exercising vetoes constrains their irresponsible use, I don’t know. Anyway, smoother functioning is no argument for Lisbon. We have that already.

  28. Sarah Post author

    In desperate rush (off to Navan to a meeting of the IFA to hear Mairead McGuinness explain the WTO talks). I’ve had one thought today about Lisbon, on hearing that yet another contract is awarded to another US company which has a track record of fraud, and a morning listening to LMFM and the calls of people who just got letters address to their dead relations WHO DIED OF CANCER telling them their chest X-rays are being reviewed..

    FUCK FIANNA FAIL AND FUCK THEIR REFERENDUM WHY SHOULD WE ENDORSE ANYTHING THEY DO?

    And where the FUCK did the Irish Times get off saying this in their editorial on Saturday?

    “Mr Cowen made a passionate case for the treaty on his election; Enda Kenny still has to do so.”

    The FF campaign really only launched last week. Dick Roche has been campaign single handedly on their side. Kenny has been out campaigning and attending public meetings for 3 months.

    The content of Lisbon is sound. The smugness of this government needs to be shaken up.

  29. enf

    I hate to say it but we re-elect them over and over again.

    They shunted Bertie to the side to get this treaty through. They knew that if his thing dragged on and on we would turn on them.

    The HSE has a license to kill and is not afraid to use it.

  30. Sarah Post author

    Ahem.

    Yes, well, I’m just back from a meeting. Mairead McGuinness was on her feet for an hour and a half explaining Lisbon and the WTO talks to the Meath Executive of the IFA. What an energetic, well-informed, articulate,charming and nice woman. The best Mary Coughlan can come up with is “Well, didn’t yiz get plenty of money from Europe in the past, not really on to say No now”. McGuinness was measured and persuasive on the detail.

    One of her main points is that much of what is in Lisbon was agreed in Nice but that Lisbon is about the detail.

    I don’t know what informs Tony, but McGuinness was enthusiastic about the need for changes. The EU is no longer 15, it is 27. We don’t need 27 commissioners. We decided in Nice to limit it to 18. Lisbon simply works out the detail, ie the rotation compromise in order to achieve the 18.
    We haven’t lost anything. We, a country of 4 million are equal in status to Germany, a country of 84 million. Trying to persuade people that we have “lost” something is simply wrong.
    Lisbon narrows the “democratic deficit” by giving more power to our representatives in the EP and including the national parliaments at an earlier stage of the legislative process.

    But let me address one of Tony’s points

    “if the Irish are to vote on this they need to be convinced it is good for Ireland. Let the others make their own decisions in their own best interests; that’s not Ireland’s job.”

    What a mean minded argument. Why isn’t it our job to think of what is best for Europe as a whole? Why shouldn’t we lead the way to a more peaceful and prosperous Europe and offer others the opportunities that we were offered? Wars break out over nationalism, trade, food and raw material consumption. The EC/EU project works out these issues in a fantastically representative way. My father is just back from Serbia where he says the scars – the psychological and democratic scars – of their recent wars are still visible and damaging. The EU didn’t cover itself in glory when those wars were taking place – but if we can get those countries into the Union, look at the comfort and the opportunity it gives to those people.
    Much of Lisbon seeks to enforce laws, GOOD laws about the environment. Why shouldn’t we do everything in our power to see that those are given the fullest support so that EVERYONE in Europe has a better future?
    Ireland has a huge opportunity to be a leader. Only the meanest, narrow sort of thinking sees it solely in terms of what we can get out of it for ourselves.

    Look after yourselves and No. 1? A Fianna Fail way of thinking. Screw them.

    I’m back onside.

  31. Tomaltach

    Sarah,
    Hurray! You’re back!

    It surely is tempting to give the government a bloody nose – but in fact, it’s our nose that would be bloody after cutting it off to spite the face (if one accepts that Lisbon is the right choice)

    As Enf points out – we elected this government – over and over. We had our chance to stop them in their tracks with their health privatisation. We passed it up.

  32. Electron

    “The EU is no longer 15, it is 27. We don’t need 27 commissioners” this is a seriously worrying point – with 500 million comprising 27 different cultures. We need our man on the inside to keep an eye on proceedings – five years is a lifetime in a rapidly changing world.
    Martin Manseargh told Vincent Browne the other night that the reason for all the junior ministers was that senior ministers were away in Brussels for some of the time and that they need the juniors to manage the home front – if 4 million takes so much managing, what would 500 million take?

  33. enf

    We elected them through thick and thicker. Incompetence and arrogance are no barrier to being re-elected.

    Look at the mindless return of Bev (face for radio) Flynn in Mayo, Wednesday Wallace in Meath East and doubtless many others around the country who promise little and deliver nothing.

    Our politicians are the dregs that weren’t smart enough to emigrate and stayed to manage the old and the old fashioned. The Ireland of the 70’s and 80’s

    Ireland is not full of old people and the old fashioned. We have an underrepresented 10% of our population who are immigrants with no vote and a disenfranchised vote under 35 who just go to work and get on with it and ignore the rambling and horse trading politicians.

    Don’t even get me started on the Greens. Poachers turned gamekeepers. I would never vote for them after selling out like they have.

    What I am trying to say is that a lot of people care what is going on but a lot keep their heads down and just get on with life. That is what FF depends on. Apathy.

  34. Sarah Post author

    Electron

    you’ve got that ALL WRONG.

    The commissioner is NOT our man – he is appointed to look after the interests of ALL European citizens in a particular field e.g. agriculture, competition, social affairs.
    Our specific national interests are looked after by the particular Minister at the Council of Ministers.

    SO if the EU is negotiating legislation proposed by the Commisison in relation to the environment then all the ministers of the Environment from each member state meet and negotiate it. Then the legislation has be passed by the Parliament in which our MEPs have a say. And of course, FG is a member of the EP, one of the biggest and most influential parties.

    THAT’s why Mansergh was able to say the ministers are so preoccupied with Europe.

    The commissioners DO NOT represent the country.

    one more point, when Ministers say “oh Europe did this” they are being very disingenuous since THEY approved of it at the Council. NOW they won’t have that excuse since under Lisbon the proposed legislation will go to the national parliaments first where national reps will have an input. No more blaming Europe after the fact since we’ll get an opportunity to debate it before the fact.

  35. Tomaltach

    Each commissioner operates on behalf of the Union as laid out in the Treaties. Her or she cannot take direction from a national government. Perhaps more important is how the Commission works. The Commissioner is essentially like a minister at the head of a department. Within that department the are the Directorates General – who are like the chief secretary in a department here. The DGs and their teams prepare the technical information for the commissioner and in that sense have quite a lot of power. But the commissioner also has a small ‘office’ of 6 advisors which provide him or her with political advice. It has become increasingly the practice that not all of the office can be from the same nationality.

    In the end of the day, this civil service and their commissioners come up with proposals. And those proposals can only be made law by the either the Council or the Council and Parliament acting together. Since the proposals, like those emanating from any civil service, are born in a bureacracy, it is essential to have democratic oversight and amendedments or rejectsion as necessary. This is where Lisbon brings three significant advantages:
    1.The Council must meet in public when scrutinising/adopting legislation
    2.The European Parliament has an increased role as it’s approval with council becomes the default way of making law
    3. The National Parliaments are kept involved by being informed in advance and by have a vote on certain key areas.

    In my opinion these latter developments significantly outweigh the move to a rotating commission.

  36. Sarah Post author

    Tomaltach, your comments are very well informed. What’s your story? :-)

  37. Tomaltach

    Sarah,
    No story other than one of the aspects of politics that interests me is the shape of political institutions. In particular I love to burrow into the detail of constitutions and rules, how they work in practice and what influence these have on how a place is governed in reality. It’s in this context that I got interested in the mechanisms of the EU quite a few years back and I have read fairly widely on its evolution. The EU has been a particularly interesting beast for political scientists, because its evolution is unique and its institutional framework such a hybrid, and so there’s quite a bit of material, and significant disagreement, on which theoretical model is the best fit.

    The short answer : I’m an anorak!

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